Tag Archives: Reading

Unbroken

Most of my reading is typically fiction. There are very few non-fiction books that I’ve read that I could call favorites of mine. In fact, I can’t even think of any right now. I’m not sure what this says about my memory or the amount of non-fiction I’ve read, but I’ve often found them to be too dry and fact-heavy. That is, up until now. I recently read Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken and it has been one of the best books I have read in a while and possibly my favorite non-fiction book.

The cover of Unbroken reads “A World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption.” This book was exactly that. From cover to cover, there are so many examples of strength and perseverance, all of which tell a very powerful biography that doesn’t overwhelm the reader with historical fact after historical fact, but brings the story of Louis Zamperini and those around him to life. I enjoyed learning about Zamperini’s juvenile delinquent childhood in Southern California, his track star days that even landed him in the Olympics, and his early years in the military. I anxiously read about the 47 days Zamperini and his pilot Russell Allen Phillips spent on a raft in the Pacific Ocean after their plane crashed until they were captured by the Japanese. I struggled to read of the conditions and the brutality at the POW camps he was at. I felt relief reading of the POW’s freedom at the end of the war.

I don’t want to give away too much on this story because it really was remarkable and deserves to be read. What struck me most were two things: first, my complete ignorance of the Pacific War, including the amount of American deaths just from training and search missions (Zamperini’s plane went down while looking for another downed plane). Secondly, I was struck by the dedication of these men in the POW camps to remain mentally and emotionally unbroken. While the infamous Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe did everything to weaken their bodies and minds at his camp, he could not break their spirit (although, sadly, many did suffer from PTSD following the war). It was inspiring to read how these soldiers from different countries all kept each other going while suffering in these camps, refusing to allow their enemy to destroy their hopes that the war would end and they would all be free. I will admit that the conditions of these POW camps were very hard to read at times that I almost found it hard to believe that such activities happened, but the end of the book is well worth the effort of getting through this section. Unbroken is a heavy read, but one that I am glad I completed. In the end, it was a reminder of how much the human spirit is capable of.

I haven’t read Hillenbrand’s first book Seabiscuit so I was unfamiliar with her style, but reading Unbroken made me admire how thorough she can be and how precise her writing is, while still being a page-turner (again, don’t throw a bunch of facts in my face, I don’t want to feel like I’m reading a textbook). I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to capture all that Zamperini experienced in his life while also highlighting so many other remarkable and infamous people along the way. It was also really unique to see the pictures Zamperini and other family members gave her; I appreciated how it shows a different perspective on this historical time period.

Louis Zamperini passed away this month at the age of 97. I admire the long and full life he led, how he persevered through so many adversities, and how bright his spirit remained to the very end. They are currently making a movie based off of this book, below is the trailer that was just released this week. You bet I’ll be watching this when it’s out in theaters (along with a box of tissues in hand).

The Paris Wife

I have to admit, I’m pretty behind on blogging… between the trip to San Francisco and just general life busyness, I have about a dozen drafted blog posts just waiting to be finished and published. Woops.

The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife

I read The Paris Wife a couple of months ago and overall, I really enjoyed it (although at this point I can’t remember all of the details…it’s been too long!). Looking at the different books I’ve read this summer, this one was one of my favorites and a great reminder why I enjoy historical fiction so much and how they weave between actual historical events and character development.

The Paris Wife is the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley Richardson. One thing I really appreciated about this book was how easy it was to see that the author Paula McLain did her research on the Hemingways. I loved how detailed their stories were and how easy it was to see everything from Hadley’s point of view. After meeting each other in the U.S., Ernest and Hadley soon got married and moved to Paris where they experienced all the city had to offer in the roaring ’20s. As a 20-year old beginning writer, Ernest is dramatic, passionate, and fairly needy while 28-year old Hadley is the stable rock and supporter he needs to help start his career.

The book’s title sums up Hadley perfectly as she was Ernest’s “Paris Wife”; she was his first of four wives and they spent most of their marriage within Paris. It was at times sad and also frustrating to read their story and see how the marriage slowly came to an end. I found myself at times thinking to myself “Hadley, you’re crazy for putting up with this” or “Ernest, you’ve got to be kidding me.” And yet I couldn’t put the book down and managed to feel a sense of peace at the end of it, which isn’t an easy feat given the end of their relationship.

If you’re looking for a quick, engaging read and also like historical fiction, I would definitely recommend The Paris Wife.

Cutting for Stone

This summer has flown by. How are we already in September? Weren’t we just in mid-July? It’s been a busy season with several work trips that have taken me to Minneapolis, NYC, LA, and Mexico. With these new responsibilities at my job and different trips with clients, I have had the opportunity to read more while on all of these different flights, which has proven to be a great de-stressor and break from my daily schedule. After finishing Sarah’s Key, I picked up Cutting for Stone at an airport bookstore. While I hadn’t heard much about this book, I saw that a few of my friends had given it great reviews on Goodreads. If you don’t have this app, I highly recommend it, it has become my go-to tool whenever I’m looking for a new book to read.

Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone

When I first started reading Cutting for Stone, I had no idea I would enjoy this book so much. At the top level, this story is about twin brothers named Marion and Shiva (and is narrated by Marion) who are born to a nun and British surgeon in an Ethiopian hospital compound. After their birth which killed their mother, they become orphans once their father flees the country and are raised by another doctor in the community. This book follows the lives of these two brothers and how they are affected by family ties, love, their fascination with medicine, and the political turmoil of their country. As the two brothers become adults, Marion moves to America where he becomes a surgeon while Shiva stays with their surrogate family in Ethiopia and is a doctor at the medical compound they grew up in. They are eventually reunited, but I don’t want to give anything away.

What I loved most about this book was the character development. Verghese’s writing not only brings the twins Marion and Shiva to life in a beautiful way, but each character has their specific and intentional role to play and all work through their own individual struggles while always moving the plot forward. While certain parts were hard for me to read, whether because they were heartbreaking or just too medically detailed for my squeamish stomach, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and by the time I had about 1/3 left, I couldn’t put it down and was thankful for the flight to Mexico so I could finish reading in one sitting. Cutting for Stone is definitely one of the best-written books I have read in a while and one that I would happily pass on to any friends who want to read it.

Sarah’s Key

Whenever I go to Target, I rarely stick to what’s on my shopping list. Regardless of what I’m there to purchase, I almost always end up walking through the book aisles. I love taking a quick look at the current best sellers and adding some of those names to my reading list or making a quick purchase on a book I’ve had my eye on. Sarah’s Key is a book I had seen on shelf at Target for as long as I can remember. I’m not entirely sure why, but I really enjoy World War II historical fiction books. One of my earliest favorite books was Number the Stars and I’ve enjoyed several other WWII books since then (my most recent favorite was The Book Thief).

Sarah's Key

Sarah’s Key

Sarah’s Key was a quick read and one that pulled me in from the very beginning. I loved how the author went between the past, telling the story of young Sarah who lived through the roundup of Jews in Paris, to the present with the story of a journalist named Julia who is trying to learn more about this historical roundup that was not conducted by the Gestapo, but by French authorities. As their stories overlapped, I couldn’t put the book down. I was impressed how the author Tatiana de Rosnay brought to life a story from this roundup through the eyes of a child, and was also saddened to think of the real children that lived through this time of history and how their lives were forever changed.

As much as I appreciated the first 2/3 of the book, I struggled with the ending. To me, it felt drawn out and like the drama was unnecessary. I had appreciated how simple the storytelling was for the first portion of the book and felt the ending was too forced in comparison. It was still overall a good book and one I would recommend, and inspired me to read another French based book – The Paris Wife. That review (along with another 10 posts I have drafted…) will be coming soon!

Bossypants

I had always viewed Bossypants as a “cool” book before I ever purchased it. I mean come on, it’s Tina Fey. And with the way everyone was raving about it, I knew this was a book I would have to read. It took me a bit longer to finally come to this book than I would have expected, but we finally found each other in a quaint little bookstore (okay, it wasn’t quaint, it was in the Minneapolis airport after a long day of presentations).

Bossypants

Bossypants

One thing I really admired about this book was how much the voice truly felt like Tina Fey. No one else could have said these stories the same way she did. Heck, I read most of the book imaging her talking to me in this outfit and pose from Mean Girls. The stories in her book are great and will have you laughing along. Tina Fey is a comedic genius and it felt like a curtain was lifted to reveal on the entertainment industry, from growing up in Pennsylvania, to working on SNL with her Sarah Palin impressions, to launching her show 30 Rock. And let me tell you, working on SNL is hard core. No wonder only the best are a part of that show (and yes, that includes the different time Justin Timberlake has co-hosted).

Now, this may come as a shocker, but given the choice between this book and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, I’d pick Mindy’s. In the end, I felt like I related more to Mindy’s stories, or at least the childhood part. Also, the super goody two-shoes side of me was slightly surprised by the amount of cursing in Tina Fey’s book. I know. I’m 25 going on 9. However, both of these women will make you laugh, guaranteed, so if you can’t decide between these books just go ahead and read both.

A Dog’s Purpose

I come from a family of dog-lovers. I’ve mentioned this before, but growing up, we always had at least one dog in our family. And let me tell you, we love our dogs as the rightful members of our family that they are. We had Canelo and Happy when I was a baby, two rambunctious labs. We had our first sheltie Caramelo when I was a little kid. Our second sheltie Scottie and beagle-terrier mix Daisy were our childhood dogs. While I was in college, my parents got shepherd-pointer mix Jake and then later shepherd-corgi-chow mix Penny. All of these dogs have been so different from each other and have brought us so much joy.

This past summer, my parents had to put Jake down. He was my mom’s dog and he loved her in a way far deeper than how he cared for the rest of us; we knew it wasn’t personal, he had a connection with my mom from the moment they saw him at the Tucson Humane Society and that connection never changed. My mom was Jake’s world and he did a great job making her feel protected whenever she was home alone during the day, with my dad at work, Alex at school and me at Trinity. Knowing how much my mom loved Jake, I got her the book A Dog’s Purpose after we had to put Jake down. She loved it and appreciated it during that time over the summer. Knowing that I would also enjoy it, she let me borrow it while we were in Tucson for Christmas. Whereas Mindy Kaling’s book made me laugh the whole time, I sobbed and whimpered through most of this one. It is beautiful and highlights all of the reasons why we love dogs so much. I think the last book that made me cry this much was probably Marley & Me. Darn you, dog books.

If these four-legged friends have a special place in your life, I’m sure you will also treasure this book. I don’t want to give too much away because it was so special to know little about this book before reading it, but I will leave you with two points: One, I love that this book is actually told from a dog’s perspective. This may seem weird at first, but the more I read, the more realistic this dog’s voice became and the more I treasured the way dogs see their human companions. Two, pace yourself with this book. There were definitely parts where I had to just stop, put the book down, and then go cry and hold Wrigley for a bit. Yes, the crying was strangely therapeutic, but reading this all at once can get pretty heavy.

I didn’t need this book to remind me how much I love dogs, but I do appreciate how much it made me remember that dogs too have a purpose in our world. To some they may just be (sometimes obnoxious and terrible) animals, but I really do see them as so much more. After reading this book, I couldn’t help but look back at all the dogs I’ve had throughout my life and reflect on what I believe their purposes were. I believe my early childhood dogs of Canelo, Happy and Caramelo introduced me to the joy dogs can bring, they were all goofs and very playful. Scottie taught me what companionship and fierce loyalty are, whereas my brother and I joke that Daisy taught us how to become cranky with old age. Jake taught me what deep love for one owner looks like and Penny continues to teach me to not judge a book by its cover; she was a skinny, skittish dog when we adopted her, and not the cutest, but she sure is sweet and strong now. Our first foster dog Duke taught Chip and I that despite a terrible history, dogs can learn to trust and love again and they all deserve that second chance. And then there’s Wrigley. He’s the first dog I’ve had as an adult and is the first living thing Chip and I have been responsible for. Yes, he can be a conniving brat who likes to check the kitchen counters while we pray before a meal, but he adds so much to our daily life. Sometimes we get a little sentimental thinking that whenever we start a family in the years to come, our kids won’t know Wrigley the same way we do, but after reading this book, I really feel that Wrigley’s purpose is to benefit us and our marriage (and hopefully not to prepare us for the worst child ever haha). He was there when we got engaged and is there for us every day when we get home. We’ve shared with other couples that Wrigley is a great reminder to us in our marriage of what unconditional love looks like. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been gone or if we just corrected some bad behavior on his part; he greets us with abandon and jumps into our laps at every opportunity, ready to love on us and hopefully get a belly rub in return. He’s there laying beside our bed when we go to sleep and ready to greet us in the mornings when we wake up. For these and many more reasons, we love our pup.

With one of my first dogs, Canelo

With one of my first dogs, Canelo

Alex and I with Scottie

Alex and I with Scottie

With Scottie and Daisy

With Scottie and Daisy

Scottie and Daisy were definitely our childhood dogs

Scottie and Daisy were definitely our childhood dogs

With Jake - you can't tell, but he's sitting in front of my mom, like always

With Jake – you can’t tell, but he’s sitting in front of my mom, like always

Little puppy Wrigs three years ago

Little puppy Wrigs three years ago

One of our engagement pictures with Wrigley

One of our engagement pictures with Wrigley

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Let’s be real, I think we’ve all asked ourselves this question at some point or another (I know I have! And in the cases of junior high through high school, the answer was “mm yeah, probably”). This is the title of Mindy Kaling’s book and is one of the reasons why I had wanted to read it for so long. The way I saw it, with a title that clever, the rest of the book had to be good. After reading the book I can full-heartedly say the wits of Miss Kaling delivered, although I’m sure that’s not a surprise considering her writing skills on The Office. This was one of those few books that had me literally laughing out loud the entire time. I started reading this book on a flight to Minneapolis for a work trip and had to stop because I was laughing to myself so much that people were starting to look at me. So I stopped for a bit and resumed my reading on my return flight; didn’t want people to assume I was cray cray or anything.

I finished the book within a couple of days and recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a light, fun read. Her stories and humor are such a pick me up. From sharing about her chubby childhood, to high school friendships, to college plays and her move to New York (which included a play about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck that she co-wrote and starred in called Matt and Ben) and then LA with The Office, you’ll finish this book loving Mindy Kaling and wishing you could hang out and chat over a mojito or cosmo. On a more serious note, I could also really relate to her upbringing as a nerdy child of two hardworking immigrant parents and found myself cheering for her in her childhood stories. I’d like to think that if had we met in elementary school, we’d totes be BFF’s and ace group projects together. Right, Mindy?

I leave you with two of my favorite quotes from this book. Hopefully this is all the convincing you need to go pick up the book.

 “As it is, I guess I find “Jack and Diane” a little disgusting. As a child of immigrant professionals, I can’t help but notice the wasteful frivolity of it all. Why are these kids not at home doing their homework? Why aren’t they setting the table for dinner or helping out around the house? Who allows their kids to hang out in parking lots? Isn’t that loitering? I wish there was a song called “Nguyen and Ari,” a little ditty about a hardworking Vietnamese girl who helps her parents with the franchised Holiday Inn they run, and does homework in the lobby, and Ari, a hardworking Jewish boy who does volunteer work at his grandmother’s old-age home, and they meet after school at Princeton Review. They help each other study for the SATs and different AP courses, and then, after months of studying, and mountains of flashcards, they kiss chastely upon hearing the news that they both got into their top college choices.This is a song teens need to inadvertently memorize. Now that’s a song I’d request at Johnny Rockets!”
“Haley and I would talk for hours about which member of ‘N Sync we’d want to marry. After long deliberation, the answer was always J. C. Chasez. Joey Fatone’s last name was going to be “Fat One” no matter how great he was, and even though they didn’t know at their age that Lance Bass was gay outright, they sensed he’d make a better good friend and confidante. As for Justin Timberlake, well, JT was the coolest and hottest, but too flashy, so we couldn’t trust him to be faithful. J. C. Chasez was the smart compromise.”